European Cup winner with Liverpool, World Cup finalist with Germany and all round good guy Didi Hamann spoke to us this week. Here’s what he had to say.
JOE: You’re probably best known in Ireland now for appearing as an analyst on various channels, mainly RTE. How different is Irish football coverage to the BBC and Sky?
Didi Hamann: It’s great on RTE. It’s very enjoyable. They’re good people and I think it is very good television because they don’t beat about the bush and they say it as it is. And that’s the way it should be.
JOE: We saw you reckoned Lance Armstrong should be sitting down with Eamon Dunphy, not Oprah Winfrey. What did you make of Lance’s interview?
It’s great on RTE. It’s very enjoyable. They’re good people and I think it is very good television because they don’t beat about the bush and they say it as it is.
DH: I only watched the highlights but he’s lived a lie for so long. The evidence is mind-blowing. If he lied under oath he should face a proper court. He says he wants to compete again but I don’t think he should be let anywhere near a competitive event. You will always get cheats in professional sports but he’s done it beyond belief.
JOE: Back to the TV, do the producers in the UK and Ireland instruct you to act differently or...
DH: No, in Ireland they are a bit more forward and outgoing. They are not shy. On other stations they maybe hold back a little but I think it is changing. The people want to hear your views. There’s no point being on television if you can’t say it how it is.
JOE: You can’t fool the fans...
Didi learned a lot from Trap
JOE: Of course, the lads at RTE have been very critical of a man you know very well, Giovanni Trapattoni. What do you make of how he has performed and do you think he should have got the sack last year?
DH: You will have to wait and see. Ireland have made a decent start to the qualification campaign. He took them to the Euros but that was disappointing. I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes but a lot of bad stories coming out of the dressing room is always a bad sign. And it has happened on a few occasions.
But if the team is still behind him I don’t see any reason [to get rid of him]. He has a contract and I understand the money might be an issue. If they [the FAI] think he can still qualify for the World Cup, which is the target, then they have to keep him. If they think he limits their chances they have to make a decision.
Most senior players are behind him so take it game by game and they are in a good position in the group.
JOE: It is a tough group, with Germany forging ahead. Is it between us, Sweden and Austria for second?
DH: But we saw Germany, 4-0 up, then draw 4-4 so you never know. For the first time Jogi Loew and the team have come under pressure and we have to see how they react. We haven’t seen anything like that for about six years.
JOE: You were quite young when Trap brought you into the Bayern team. He has brought in a number of younger players to his Ireland squad this week. What’s he like with younger players?
DH: He was great. He took a lot of time with us. He stayed behind for hours, working on our weaknesses. All he was interested in was the improvement of the player. You can’t take that for granted. I appreciated it and I’m grateful for what he did. I was 19, 20 when I broke into the Bayern team and he taught me a lot.
JOE: And while we are on the subject of Bayern, were you surprised by the appointment of Pep Guardiola?
DH: Not really. I understand they had contact last season. It’s a big, big club with a global following. The English thought if they wanted him they could have him. Managers like him want security and room to work and a lot of things came out of Chelsea in recent months that may have put him off.
And don’t forget Bayern have a great chance to win the Champions League this year, they are going very strong in the league so he comes into a club that has an outstanding team.
JOE: We have a lot of Liverpool fans over here so we have to ask you about another of your former clubs. How do you think they are doing right now?
DH: I think they are doing okay. They haven’t over-achieved, they haven’t under-achieved. They are on a pretty good run but they have to keep it going. They play Arsenal and City away in the next two, which will be tough. I think it is unlikely they will finish in the top four but if they are to have an outside chance they have to get four points from the next two.
The arrival of Daniel Sturridge makes them better, they have more belief and they looked excellent on Saturday [against Norwich]. I think they are still one or two players short but they are going the right way. Hopefully they can get back in the Champions League as soon as possible.
Hamann tucked away one of the penlties that famous night in Istanbul
JOE: That leads nicely into the question we have to ask you; what really happened in that dressing room in Istanbul at half-time?
DH: Not too much! I was only in there for two or three minutes. Rafa came in and said we had to make a change. He went through the set-pieces against us and told us how he wanted us to set up for the second half. That’s it for me, then I went out to warm up.
JOE: And these days you’re a big fan of Twitter...
DH: I’m only on for the last six months or so but it is a good tool to interact with fans and people you have not seen in a while. I had to be talked into it but I enjoy it now.
JOE: And we hear all is okay with you now and Joey Barton after last week’s Twitter chat?
DH: Yeah, he phoned me up and apologised so for me the matter is closed.
JOE: Okay Didi, just a couple of quick ones for you before you go. Who is the best player you played with?
DH: That is hard as I played with so many at different stages of their career but I would have to say Lothar Matthaus. World Cup winner, 150 caps for Germany.
Hamann battles with best he faced, Patrick Vieira
JOE: And the best you played against?
DH: Patrick Vieira. He was strong, big, he could tackle, it was hard to get the ball off him with his long legs. He could pass, make a goal and he was a huge influence on an outstanding team.
JOE: And finally Didi, have you seen the Apres Match version of yourself and what do you make of them?
DH: I’ve seen a few and the ones I’ve seen are very entertaining, I have to say. They are great. The hardest job on TV is to make people laugh and they do it on a regular basis so fair dues to them.
JOE: Well hopefully we will see lots more of the real Didi Hamann on Irish screens soon. Thanks for your time Didi.
DH: My pleasure, bye.